Mesothelioma UK investigates experiences of asbestos cancer patients during COVID-19 pandemic

Mesothelioma UK has surveyed asbestos-related cancer patients about their treatment and care experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. Patients were asked about any impacts on their treatment schedule, hospital appointments and scans, the patient shielding list, contact with health care teams, and other areas affected by the pandemic.

The key findings from the 64 responders to the survey include:
• 50% said their treatment had been affected including postponement of chemotherapy and entry onto clinical trials
• 64% said their scans or outpatient appointments had been changed, cancelled or postponed.
• 52% automatically received a letter from the NHS advising them they were on the patient shielding list
• 28% experienced difficulty obtaining shopping including medicines

Mesothelioma is a cancer related to exposure to asbestos and predominantly affects the lining of the lungs. The UK has the highest incidence of the disease in the world with around 2,700 people diagnosed each year.

Based on the responses, Mesothelioma UK makes the following recommendations:
1. Cancer treatments should be reinstated as soon as it is safely possible and alternatives such as home treatment should be considered to avoid hospital visits for the most vulnerable
2. Telephone or video consultations are acceptable and should be considered after the pandemic
3. Review of the shielding patient list with clearer guidelines
4. Hospital and community prescriptions to be compatible and home delivery service for prescriptions to be considered

Head of Services for Mesothelioma UK, Liz Darlison commented: “Understandably, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on healthcare services and we understand that decisions made about cancer patients’ treatment and care are made with their safety in mind. Sadly some patients have said they feel frightened, in limbo and even abandoned. However, Mesothelioma UK wants to reassure patients that they really matter and everything is being done to get their treatment and care back on track.

“The charity funds a team of dedicated nurse specialists in NHS trusts who have been supporting individuals and families, sometimes in desperate situations. As part of our ongoing and comprehensive support for patients, Mesothelioma UK will do all it can to share the survey findings appropriately with any groups, organisations and health care providers, to ensure that the voices of our patients are still heard.”